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“I Grow Therefore I am Alive”: My integration Journey
I hope I don’t lose you all with this first paragraph. My processes and definitions seem to be rather unique and confusing, but I feel the need to define “integration” before I can offer some thoughts about its journey and how it relates to faith. If it is not clear as to how my processes might be confusing it will be when I start this next sentence. In Math, differential equations involve continuously varying quantities. Integration gives these continuously varying quantities a postulated rate of change which is then used to solve the differential equation. For this reason any given integration is only the answer so long as these varying quantities stay as they are, but as soon as they change a new integration is needed. This is as true in life as it is in math. This means that in order to attempt to find integration in life one first has to discover life’s varying qualities. For this reason the only integration we can hold in life is a continuously changing one. I must take on each moment as it comes, quieting myself enough to seek the varying qualities of the moment, it is only then that I can find my present state of integration; centering myself, then letting it go so that I can repeat the process for my life’s next set of varying qualities.
So how does this apply to faith? Spending the first 20 or so years of my life thinking that my life was constant, that it had only one set of qualities and that it was as simple as figuring them out, made a journey of integration impossible. I grew up with the mindset that my life held universal truth, that the bible had one set of answers and that I had one God -given role amidst that truth. From that mindset I was then instructed as to what most of those truths were and what “the biblical worldview” was in the midst of these truths. In a sense I believed I had everything, I had life figured out and didn’t need to worry about life’s varying qualities; or so I thought. My first big turning point in life’s integrative journey showed me that rather than having it all figured out I had simply closed off my mind to the alternatives, rather than knowing the one biblical worldview I had simply cut out the heart of my relationship with God in order to get cheap answers. Rather than arriving at a place of understanding concerning life’s varying qualities I had instead come to a place of stagnation and a complete loss of self.
This first big turning point came in the form of challenging my mind through the rigors of secular philosophy. I developed an interest in philosophy late in high school and decided that it would be a fun major to pursue in college. Little did I know that I was signing myself up for a lifelong passion as well as a more immediate introduction to integration. After trudging through two years of philosophy professors scoffing at universal truth and trashing a belief in the scriptures one of my unvarying qualities began to wander and it was the quality that held it all together, namely that I had no varying qualities, that I had it all together, that I had all life’s answers.
Ironically my professor’s scoffing at religion had pushed me first to agnosticism and then to a place of renewed faith. Knowing that God wasn’t nearly as easy to figure out as I thought gave me renewed vigor to explore who He was, is and will be. In this way I lost my faith because of never really finding it only to find it by losing everything I knew about it. I found my life’s integration journey only by relinquishing the fact that I had completed it. I resolved to follow in the thought of Renee Descartes and start all over in my thinking. But, rather than, “I think therefore I am” I started with “I grow therefore I am alive”. If my mind had ceased to find new answers then it had succeeded only in ceasing to be alive.
Over the years my relationship with God has seen its challenges, mostly due to pain and suffering. I found myself asking if it was worth the growth, if it was worth the relationship if it also meant suicide, broken homes, and various abuses of power. Why would God allow my uncle to rape his six year old niece? Why would God allow my brother to fall again and again to drugs? Why would God let cancer take my grandparents? And most of all why is God equally open to relationship with rapists, drug addicts, and bigots as he is to those grandparents who lived their lives to serve others? Perhaps it is because without freedom for all there is no growth for any, and perhaps it is because no matter how bad things get or how horrible people become they still have that potential for growth in them. It is the willingness to hold on to this potential in all people that makes God love. It is my hope that this piece of my journey will help others in moving from a faith of knowing to a faith of growing.
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